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Knicks’ early warning signs proved to be true after great preseason expectations

Carmelo Anthony #7, Mindaugas Kuzminskas #91, Kyle O'Quinn

Carmelo Anthony #7, Mindaugas Kuzminskas #91, Kyle O'Quinn #9 and Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks look on late in a game against the Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday, Mar. 29, 2017 in New York City. Credit: Jim McIsaac

MIAMI — The Knicks will honor their 1999 team Sunday and its memorable run to the NBA Finals. This season’s team will be remembered for not living up to lofty expectations.

The Knicks believed they would be a playoff team, if not a contender for one of the East’s top spots. They were mathematically eliminated from the postseason Wednesday and are tied for the fifth-worst record in the league.

All that’s left now is to see where the Knicks finish, and how high a draft pick they get.

“Throughout this whole season we had one stretch of playing good basketball,” Carmelo Anthony said on Wednesday. “That was early on in the season. Things shifted after that.”

Or, as Courtney Lee said, “Everything went south.”

After team president Phil Jackson acquired veterans Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings, the biggest concern initially was health. But it turned out the Knicks had bigger problems.

The Knicks (28-47), who play the Heat Friday, never clicked. Even when they were 14-10 and 16-13, Kristaps Porzingis said they were relying on their talent and not playing as a team. That proved true. The Knicks have gone 12-34 since Christmas Day and are out of the playoffs for the fourth straight year.

“We didn’t do it from the beginning the right way. We didn’t have real fundamentals as a team,” Porzingis said. “Once things got a little tougher we just didn’t have the fundamentals as a team.”

Right from the beginning there was too much focus on the offense and not enough on the defense. The triangle system hung over the Knicks’ heads, and it affected how much effort they put forth defensively.

The players expressed unhappiness about running the triangle since it didn’t fit the team’s personnel. Coach Jeff Hornacek tried to appease the players and Jackson by mixing modern NBA sets with “triangle aspects.”

But Jackson won that battle, and in doing so Hornacek might have lost some of the players who didn’t want to run the triangle. The Knicks are a full-blown triangle offense now. Hornacek said it will be the system next year, and the Knicks will look for players who best fit it.

Sticking to a plan might be a step in the right direction. Former Knicks coach Derek Fisher tried to stray from the triangle and then Hornacek did at the beginning.

The Knicks changed their offense a couple of times during the season as well as some of their defensive philosophies and game plans. It led to Porzingis saying there was “a lot of confusion” and it was “from top to bottom.”

There’s no confusion about where the Knicks are now and how they got here. Now everything is about the future — again.

Party like it’s 1999. Expected to take part in Sunday’s celebration during the Knicks-Celtics game at the Garden are former coach Jeff Van Gundy, Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, Marcus Camby, Kurt Thomas, Charlie Ward and Herb Williams.


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